Siena survives scare, advances to MAAC semis
It was a foregone conclusion that the Siena Saints would make it to the MAAC Championship.
So when the No. 8 seed Manhattan Jaspers took a 16-4 lead eight minutes into the game, the 8,914 Siena fans at the Times Union Center in Albany were shocked and silent.
It was one of many shocking occurrences in Saturday’s quarterfinal contest, but the end result was one that was expected – it just took a momentum changer to make it happen.
With Manhattan up 46-43 and 16:39 left, a cheap shot from Darryl Crawford to Siena’s O.D. Anosike got the Siena followers raucous. The hit knocked Anosike out of the remainder of the game.
It also sparked a Siena run that was expected to occur much earlier in the contest. Siena took control and outscored the Jaspers 35-15 the remainder of the contest to win 78-61. Siena (25-6) will play in Sunday’s semifinal contest against Rider at 4 PM.
“As in any tournament situation, every game is hard,” said Siena head coach Fran McCaffrey. “We knew it’d be a hard fought game. We got to a slow start offensively, but we were all over the glass and made the plays we needed to make down the stretch.”
Manhattan (11-20), which was swept by Siena in the regular season, was quick to start and was in control early. A four-headed attack with guards Crawford, Rico Pickett, Antoine Pearson and Patrick Bouli led the way as the Jaspers saw their early lead dwindle, but responded with fury.
The game quickened to Siena’s preferred pace, but the Jaspers’ guards had no problem answering every Siena basket with a score of their own. Manhattan led 40-36 at halftime as the four Jasper guards combined for 36 points. As a team, Manhattan shot 17-for-31 (54.8 percent) in the half compared to 13-for-38 (34.2 percent) shooting for Siena.
The Jaspers maintained its lead coming out of the locker room, but the Anosike incident turned the game around. A minute after Crawford’s elbow, Siena’s Owen Wignot hit an open 3-pointer to give Siena it’s first lead of the game.
Manhattan grabbed one more lead after that at 49-48, but could not recover.
“We always keep our composure, and that’s the great thing about this team,” said Siena forward Alex Franklin, who poured in 23 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. “If things aren’t going for us early, we know we’re always in the game and things will start going our way.
Crawford’s play dropped dramatically after the incident. After going 4-for-6 in the first 20 minutes, Crawford finished just 5-for-14 shooting and received a loud Albany boo every time his hands touched the basketball.
Crawford wasn’t the only Jasper to struggle in the half. Manhattan made just 6-of-23 shots for a 26.1 percent shooting percentage.
Siena shot much better in the half (13-for-30, 43.3 percent), something Franklin expected.
“We came out with energy, but shots weren’t falling for us,” Franklin said. “We maintained that energy in the second, and shots started falling.”